Scott Willis

Host, Reporter, Producer

I’ve always been enamored with the intimacy of radio.  It’s so personal.  It forces you to listen…and listen only.  No visual distractions.  I grew up listening to mostly top 40 radio in Detroit, with no shortage of entertaining DJ’s.  As a teenager, I discovered the area’s all news station.  I loved knowing what was going on, and the intensity with which they told stories.  I often wondered what it would be like to be the first to know what was happening, and then tell others.  Maybe that’s why I pursued a career in news. 

I would go on to serve as an intern at that all-news station, and it was amazing and maybe a little overwhelming to see what it took to put out a constant stream of news.  But something was missing.  It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I actually discovered Detroit’s public radio station at my alma mater.  What a difference!  You had time to write and tell engaging, meaningful stories, to be creative, all without the pressure to constantly crank out the news.  Quality over quantity.  That’s when I knew public radio was for me.  I was hooked.

I would hone my skills on and off for almost three years at WDET as an intern under the tutelage of a patient Assistant News Director. I produced daily stories for newscasts, but also was given the privilege of producing long-form features on topics that interested me, and that people knew very little about.  Now THAT was cool.  Right up my alley.  What budding reporter could ask for more?

I landed here in Syracuse in June 2001.  Today, I’ve come full circle, and now teach the craft to more than a dozen student reporters per week.  We work hard to choose informative stories, find the most engaging sound, and edit copy for clarity and accuracy. 

Outside of work, I spend time with my wife and little boy.  We like to take walks, travel, and read.  When I can, I’ll hop on my bike for a quick ride.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the honor and privilege of bringing WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners the news of the day during All Things Considered.  Thanks for listening.

Ways to Connect

Scott Willis / WAER News

Syracuse Common Councilor-at-Large Pam Hunter Thursday clinched the Democratic line on the November ballot for the 128th Assembly District seat.  About 1,800 voters chose Hunter, the party's designee, over fellow Councilor-at-large Jean Kessner, who earned about 1,000 votes; former Onondaga County Legislator David Stott was a distant third with just over 600 votes.  But Stott will still be on the ballot for the general election on the Conservative Party line.  

Scott Willis / WAER News

Democrats in the 128th Assembly District will head to the polls Thursday for the only state-wide race on the local ballot.  It's a primary to determine who should fill the seat left vacant when former Assemblymember Sam Roberts accepted an appointment to the Cuomo administration.  What follows is a profile of each of the three candidates hoping to convince fellow democrats they're the one best suited for the general election in November.


Scott Willis / WAER News

Members of a wide-range of labor unions gathered at the state fairgrounds for an annual rally that celebrated their accomplishments…as well as a different kind of support and leadership.  There was a strong showing from  teachers at this year’s rally, ranging from members of the Syracuse Teachers Association to United University Professions.  

  But the keynote speech came from the resident of New York State United Teachers, representing 600,000 members in education, health care, and human services.  Karen McGee took the helm of NYSUT as the first woman president in April 2014.   She made the trip to Syracuse from Harrison in Westchester county, where she’s been an elementary school teacher for 30 years. 

"You seen the bumper stickers on the car.  Union: the folks that brought you the weekend.  You're damn right we brought you the weekend and the 40 hour work week, and fought against exploiting children in the workplace."

McGee says today, they’re fighting for fair wages for the working poor, including the $15 an hour wage for fast food workers.  She says they’re fighting against overtime abuse and wage theft.  The only other person to make remarks at Monday's rally was someone who on the surface might seem like an unlikely supporter of labor.  But Republican Congressmember John Katko heaped plenty of praise on unionized workers past and present, and committed to fix something that has generated much concern among teachers, parents, and children.

  "I'm fighting every day to try and undo the mess that common core has become," he said to a cheering crowd.  "You deserve to teach how you want to teach.  You can't teach a kid in the city of Syracuse the same way you teach them in Fayetteville-Manlius.  It's time they recognize that," he said to more applause and cheers.  "I'm with you, I don't care what party I'm with because I understand labor is the backbone of Central New York."

Katko says he broke with his party to side with labor in his opposition to the Trade Promotion Authority, which congress approved earlier this summer.  He says the TPA amounts to another NAFTA, draining good jobs from upstate in favor of cheaper labor overseas.  

Scott Willis / WAER News

  WAER News embarked on a three-part series looking deeper into the significance and impact of the new Lakeview Amphitheater.  Thursday's concert is the only one planned for this year; a full slate is expected to be scheduled for 2016.  


Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney still finds herself trying to convince skeptics that the amphitheater can be a boost to the local economy.  She says the concert…and the opening of the grounds to the public for the first time, might be a starting point to win over critics.

John Smith / WAER News

  Piled-on ice cream scoops, some secret ingredients or two, and then… mix it up with milk.  The New York State Fair marked the 37th annual Dairy Day Monday.  Members of the media competed this morning with their one-of-a-kind milkshakes. Rising Country Music Singer Lindsay James was teamed up with local DJ Skip Clark.

"All around, I actually would drink our shake.  Skip, don't you think you would drink the shake?"

"The shake was awesome," Clark said.

"It tasted great," James concurred.

Scott Willis / WAER News

Nearly 100 Central New Yorkers  crowded into the Empire Room at the state fairgrounds Friday to take the oath of allegiance to become citizens of the United States.   They originate from  40 countries...from Bangladesh and Iran to New Zealand and Vietnam.  19-year-old Michael Malinowski of Syracuse came to the U.S.from Poland when he was 12.  He says he’ll always have a place in his heart for his homeland, but is proud to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather who was with him Friday.  

Yonah Perline / WAER News

An effort to improve the appearance and safety of Syracuse’s South Side was on display Thursday as Mayor Stephanie Miner and Police Chief Frank Fowler observed crews cutting down trees and shrubs.  Miner says the effort by the Multi-Agency Service Team, or M.A.S.T  on Fitch Street is focused on eliminating vacant lots and overgrown shrubbery that aids criminals.

"The environment is one part that allows criminals to feel safe.  That's the last thing that we want is criminals feeling safe and secure in our city."

Scott Willis / WAER News

A furious pace of construction by hundreds of workers over the past several months has resulted in the on-time completion of a $49.3 million amphitheater on the western shore of Onondaga Lake.  County Executive Joanie Mahoney says she was fully aware of the risks of the aggressive construction timeline when work began last November, but really took off in mid-February.  Now, the county is the official owner of a completed Lakeview Amphitheater.

Scott Willis/WAER News

An abandoned and run-down Verizon building that looms over Green Street in Camillus may have finally met its match. Senator Chuck Schumer joined Camillus Mayor Patricia Butler and residents in seeking to clean up or tear down what they deem an unkempt eye sore. 

Scott Willis, WAER News

  Onondaga County did its part to keep the Spirit of ‘45 alive Friday with a day of festivities marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War two.  Officials kicked things off with the unveiling of a new 10-photo display at the War Memorial that will be available until August of 2016.  U.S. Army Air Corps veteran Ed Zaluski of Cicero was there, and says his journey began when he was a teenager in 1943.